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U.K. Athletics bans official for cyberbullying female athlete

A British Athletics official is the first individual to receive a ban for online abuse

British Athletics official Paul Baxter faces a three-and-a-half-year ban from the sport after he was found to be cyberbullying and harassing a female athlete on Facebook.

Baxter was suspended by U.K. Athletics for making several inappropriate posts toward a woman in a popular Facebook running group I Was, Or Am A Runner!

Baxter, a prominent figure in the northern U.K. Athletics community, was sanctioned for harassing Katey Ross, who waived her right to anonymity, according to The Times. 

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In December 2021, Baxter made a number of inappropriate posts on Facebook about Ross which made her feel intimidated, alarmed, and distressed for her personal safety.

Several weeks later, he created a specific post entitled ‘Who is Katey Ross?” and tagged some 52 members of the Facebook group. Baxter had already been previously removed from the group prior to the post and had re-joined under a different name.

Baxter argued to the U.K. Athletics panel that his posts in the group were in reference to the lyrics of a song, unrelated to Ross. The disciplinary panel did not accept his explanation.

According to the report, Baxter violated four U.K. Athletics Code of Conduct rules for officials and was sentenced to a three-and-a-half-year ban from athletics. If Baxter plans to return to the sport after serving his ban, he must attend a training course on equality, diversity, inclusion and anti-bullying.

These are the four Code of Conduct rules Baxter violated:

Code 2.6: Avoid swearing and critical, abusive language or irresponsible behaviour, including behaviour that is dangerous to others, acts of violence, bullying, harassment and physical and sexual abuse.
Code 3.1: Respect the rights, dignity and worth of every athlete and others involved in athletics and treat everyone equally.
Code 3.3: Act with dignity and display courtesy and good manners towards others.
Code 3.4: In no way undermine, put down or belittle other officials, athletes, coaches or practitioners.

Ross told The Times: “The behaviour of Baxter and the other men who contributed to his abusive posts sadly illustrates the wider problem of misogyny in sport; a problem women in all areas of athletics face.”

“Reporting abuse of any kind isn’t easy,” said Ross. “Women who raise awareness of abuse in sport being attacked online by men for daring to do so happens far too often.”

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